Updated: For Artists, Comparing Etsy and Zazzle

About a year ago I wrote a post on my own experiences selling my original illustrations and cards on two online platforms, Etsy and Zazzle. It is a post that gets hits almost every day from readers – I presume, mostly artists like me. Then Zazzle changed their policies for the worse, and I deleted my account there. Now Etsy is also changing its policies, also for the worse for small business artists, so I’m updating this post to explain the new unfortunate wrinkle in Etsy’s policies.

Here is my initial post’s review of the two platforms:

My experience of ‘opening a shop on Etsy’ to display my Eagle Scout congratulations cards has been a very good one so far.  I would recommend Etsy to other artists, and I’ll explain why for me it is a better fit than another popular platform for selling product art, Zazzle.

At Zazzle you can also open a ‘shop’ page, but a big difference is that Zazzle actually does the production work on your items – whether you wish to sell your art printed on cards, t-shirts, mugs, etc.  So when someone orders your Zazzle item, it ships directly from Zazzle and you don’t see the finished product – therefore you cannot judge the quality of the print job. Because Zazzle does the heavy lifting of production and distribution, you, the artist, receive a very small percentage of the asking price.

With Etsy the artist herself has to have the products made and in stock, so she gets to monitor and approve the print quality – I like this aspect better even though it means I have to do the production myself. (I have a terrific printing partner in Cortineo Creative, here in my hometown of Doylestown.) When a buyer orders my cards, I receive the full asking price that I list on my shop page. Etsy also estimates, from a form I filled out on the dimensions & weight of my product, what the postage will be on the package, and that is added onto my asking price so the buyer pays that postage as well. Etsy provides a customized shipping label and packing slip that I can print out and put on the package; when Etsy deposits my earnings, they deduct the cost of the postage from my total earnings, since the buyer initially paid that postage cost to me.

The tradeoff in payment between the two is this: I can list my products on Zazzle for free; with Etsy there is a charge for each item in my shop. The charge is 20 cents per item per quarter of a year. So I do pay 80 cents per year for each individual card on Etsy – so far this seems like a good tradeoff, since I am being paid the full price of my cards. Another disparity is, Zazzle has a threshold you must pass before they will send you your earnings – I believe it is $50 – and it takes a number of sales to accrue that amount since you are making a small percentage of the payment on each purchase.  Etsy, on the other hand, deposits your earnings into your associated bank account once a week.

One other detail, on Zazzle, there is an option to allow your buying customers to ‘customize’ the item they are purchasing.  These custom changes range from changing the color of the t-shirt and ink color, to adding their own words to your design. While this may be attractive to buyers who want the item for a very specific purpose, as an artist I hesitate to let others adjust and modify my designs. I have complete control with my Etsy products since I do the production. On Etsy, if I offer one item in two or three different colors or other characteristics, I CAN list the variations as an ‘option’ under the main description of the product – but again, I myself have to maintain ALL the varieties of the options in stock, so I can fulfill orders quickly when they come in.

Also important, is, I have done no advertising at all – until this post – to promote my cards on Etsy and yet I’ve made a number of sales, and have received great reviews from my customers, without even soliciting reviews.

Update 01/03/19: When I learned about 2 other options with payment for Zazzle:

  1. Under your payment settings and the PayPal option at the top (in very small print) it says
    Note: For PayPal there is a minimum threshold of $50 to be paid automatically. If you have less than $50 balance after one month of sales, we will hold your funds for future use, or you may request a PayPal payment for a $2.50 fee. Payment will be made within 45 days.
  2.  And if you are purchasing an item from another Zazzle store, you may use your account’s  “Cleared Earnings” against the cost of the item you are purchasing, sort of like a store credit.

So those are two ways to ‘use’ your Zazzle earnings, other than waiting for a check when you reach the threshold.

Update 04/17/19: When Zazzle made an unfortunate change

I have now deleted my Zazzle store, mainly because they announced “accounts that have been non-contributing (that is, haven’t either (1) published a public product, or (2) had a Referral Sale attributed to that account) for the previous 15 month period will be charged a “Non-Contributing Account Fee.”  I don’t make enough through Zazzle to incur another fee, so I’ve cancelled

Etsy now has announced as follows: “Starting on July 30, 2019, items that ship free and shops that guarantee free shipping to buyers in the US on orders $35 and above will get priority placement in US search results. Shoppers in the US will primarily see items that ship free and shops that offer free shipping on orders of $35 in the top, most visible rows of search. We’ll also begin to prioritize these items wherever Etsy advertises in the US—in email marketing, social media, and television ads.”

Why am I very unhappy with Etsy’s policy change? Consider that currently Etsy takes 3.5% off the top of the selling price (which does not including the shipping fee) of each sale I make – this is their fee, which is a fair commission for the service they provide. If I bundle my shipping fee into my product cost (which would almost double the selling price of my cards) and offer ‘free shipping,’ obviously Etsy will make a bigger commission on each of my sales. 

So Etsy wants to make more money off my sales – that’s not a crime, but this is the wrong way to do it. Right now when my customers are about to make a purchase they see exactly what I charge for my items and exactly what they’ll pay in postage, and that kind of transparency is ideal for seller/buyer relationships. I would prefer Etsy be honest and just increase its commission percentage instead of squeezing small artisanal businesses to behave like Amazon, with ‘Free Shipping” as one of their big selling points. Etsy’s brand has never been ‘discount rates’, it has been ‘unique and handcrafted items’ which most buyers accept usually comes with a shipping fee.

Many other Etsy sellers have complained about the difficulty of estimating how much to bundle into their prices, to accommodate selling fees that vary wildly across the US, depending on whether the buyer is in an easily accessible city or out in a rural delivery address. If you notice some Etsy prices jumping up soon, but offering “free shipping,” you’ll know they are bundling in the shipping cost to get a better location on their search pages.

With my narrow margins I can’t afford to absorb shipping costs for my cards. If I bundle my shipping into my product price, my prices will look absurdly high and I’ll certainly lose customers. And if I don’t, my products will be buried under lots of pages of ‘free shipping’ sellers. It’s a lose-lose for me and other sellers who like to be up-front with their customers.

Etsy really has been an excellent platform, but this change is really a step down for the buyer-customer relationship. For now I am keeping my AchillesPortfolio products and prices the same and customers can clearly see what their shipping cost will be before they click to finalize their order, though I might be more difficult to find on the site.

Eagle Scout Thank You Notecards

When a Scout makes his Eagle rank and is celebrated with a Court of Honor, there are always some exceptional people to be thanked. The journey to Eagle is guided by Scoutmasters, parents, friends and others who inspire and encourage the Scout to accomplish the challenges needed to achieve Eagle rank.

For these special mentors in a Scout’s journey, several customers have asked me to produce smaller thank-you notes for Eagles to use. I have now listed these on my Etsy shop, AchillesPortfolio. My Eagle thank-you notecards come 20 to a pack and have my “Eagle Scout on a Hilltop” illustration on the front. To see my Etsy shop for further ordering details, click HERE.

I drew the artwork on this card when my son was in Scouts, because I was so impressed with these fine young men who achieved Scouting’s highest rank. I have these cards printed in full color on sturdy glossy card stock, invitation-size, which is 4.25″ wide and 5.5″ deep. No envelopes are included, but invitation-size envelopes that fit these perfectly are easily available at any office supply store like Staples. The card requires standard first-class postage. The cardstock is made from partially recycled paper and the cards are printed in the USA, and the cards are blank inside so a thank-you or other message can be written by the sender.

For special orders of quantity or size on these notecards please send your questions by clicking HERE to go to my Contact page.

Small Biz, Piano & Eagle Scout Cards

etsy_4itemsJust a reminder that I created original illustrations for all the items on my Etsy shop – which you can visit by clicking here .

I created the Eagle Scout congratulations cards when my son earned his Eagle, and if I may mention, I’ve received wonderful reviews from people who buy and give them to the fine young men who achieve Scouting’s highest award.

I drew the small biz Thank You cards while I was a member of the excellent Women’s Business Forum of Bucks County, and can customize a message and your logo inside the cards if you contact me to request it. Those notecards come with the front message of either “Thank You for Sending Business My Way” for sole proprietors, or “Thank You for Sending Business Our Way” for small businesses.

I drew the Panda Piano notecards because I do illustrations for classical music groups in my area like the Lenape Chamber Ensemble and the Bucks County Symphony, and the cards are enjoyed by piano teachers, music lovers and panda lovers alike!

Etsy makes it easy to order, but if you are closeby me in the Central Bucks County area and would like to avoid the shipping fees that Etsy requires, just email me through my contact page, and we can arrange for you to pick up the cards from me.

Talk on Etsy for New Hope Art League

etsy_banner_screenshotI’ll be speaking on Etsy for Artists on Tuesday, April 24, starting at 7:00 pm with the New Hope Art League. It will be at St. Martin of Tours Church school, 1 Riverstone Circle, New Hope.  The meeting is free and open to the public.

Original artwork is one of the main categories of items sold through Etsy. I’ve been selling my illustrated greeting cards on Etsy  – at my shop AchillesPortfolio –  for about 9 months now; so far I’ve found Etsy a good low cost platform for art selling.

I will explain basic steps in starting an Etsy shop for selling artwork, so if you are thinking about opening a shop, you can get a foundation in what’s involved. I’ll also share the information I have found through research and trial and error, that helps bring more viewers to an Etsy shop. Please join us!

Bucks County Illustrators Society exhibit “Fantasy Tales” at Cabrini University

piedpiperfinish96We are happy to announce that Cabrini University in Radnor, PA, has asked BCiS to mount our Fantasy Tales exhibit in their Gorevin Gallery. Our show will run through April 8. We invite the public to join us at the opening reception next Thursday, March 15 from 4:30 – 6:30 pm (it was originally scheduled for earlier in March but the large snowstorm and power failures forced us to change the date). Cabrini University is located at 610 King of Prussia Road, Radnor, PA, and the Gorevin Gallery is in their Holy Spirit Library building.  A campus map can be seen HERE,

For the Fantasy Tales theme, each illustrator chose a story or excerpt from a story that has elements of fairy tale, supernatural or fantastical events, and created an illustration to accompany the story. The artwork in Fantasy Tales encompasses a wide range of illustration styles among BCiS illustrators,  and varies from traditional media to digital to combinations of both.  The stories chosen span classic fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella to a Native American Folk Tale to the epic King Kong saga. BCiS produced a book of the exhibit with the artwork and each illustrator’s biography, available for purchase by emailing BCiS at bcillustrators@gmail.com.

The show includes artwork by Joe DeVitoGlenn ZimmerJames BennettMonika HinterwaldnerGil Cohen, Katie Maxwell, Joe KulkaPiya WannachaiwongChristina Wannachaiwong, Rich Harrington, Becca Haushalter Klein, Rebecca Rhodin, Marie ThresherPam Convery- Hamilton , Dan Fione, Deb HoeffnerKim Kurki and Pat Achilles, and the exhibit was coordinated at Cabrini by Jeanne Komp and Nicholas Jacques.

Here are a few other events involving BCiS members coming up:

Etsy Round Table for Artists. Wednesday March 14 from 6:30 to 8 PM at Phoenix Art Supplies & Framing,  (1810 S. Easton Rd. Doylestown – they are on Rte 611, just a little north of Edison-Furlong Rd.). Pat Achilles will lead a free round table discussion on ‘Etsy for Artists’.  Pat has had an Etsy shop for her illustrated greeting cards for a while and finds Etsy a low-cost platform for selling art. She’ll begin the meeting explaining steps on starting an Etsy shop, so if you are considering creating one you’ll learn the basics.Then she’ll open it up to discussion & questions. The hope is that other artists who do Etsy will attend and share their experiences as well. Phoenix asks you to call to let them know you are coming, only so they can have enough chairs for everyone. So if you think you’ll come, just let them know at 215-345-0980 – the event is free. (And if you need any art supplies, Margaret told me the register will be open)
 
Bucks Fever Art Exhibit. This exhibit kicks off the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce ‘Bucks Fever’ cultural season. Submission deadline is March 20. The theme for this year’s show is ‘Black & White’ in any medium, and the exhibit itself will run have an Opening Reception Thursday, April 26, 2018 from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. at The Bridges at Warwick, 1600 Almshouse Road, Jamison PA 18929.  The Exhibition continues through May 10, 2018, 11am – 5pm (daily), 10am – 3pm (weekends). Admission to the event: FREE. Information: 215-348-3913.  All info is at  http://centralbuckschamber.com/bucksfever/byersart.cfm 
Rich Harrington Exhibit in Lambertville.  Rich’s paintings are featured at The Final Four (4X4 Winter Group exhibit series) with work by Laura Rutherford RennerJane Adriance and Joseph DeFay. The show is March 8 to April 1, with an opening reception: Saturday, March 10, 2-6 pm .  Gallery Hours: Thurs, Fri, Sat & Sunday 11:00 am – 6:00 pm or by appointment.  At the Artists’ Gallery, 18 Bridge St., Lambertville, NJ. 609-397-4588contact@lambertvillearts.com  
 
Charles Santore Podcast and Exhibit. There is a great podcast interview of Charles Santore at https://soundcloud.com/woodmereart/santore-podcast . The Santore exhibit is at the Woodmere Art Museum, Chestnut Hill, now through May 13. To see the catalog of this exhibit go to https://woodmereartmuseum.org/explore-online/catalogues/ and click on ‘view catalog’ under the Santore heading.

Etsy Round Table for Artists

etsytips_screenshots_wpAt the invitation of Margaret Matheson, owner of Phoenix Art Supplies and Framing, at 1810 S. Easton Road in Doylestown, I’ll be leading an Etsy Round Table talk for artists on Wednesday, March 14, from 6:30 to 8:00 pm. The meeting is right in the store at Phoenix, and is free. I’ve been selling my illustrated greeting cards on Etsy  – at my shop AchillesPortfolio –  for about 8 months now; so far I’ve found Etsy a good low cost platform for art selling.

I’ll start the meeting off by explaining basic steps in starting an Etsy shop for selling artwork, so if you are thinking about opening a shop, you can get a foundation in what’s involved. Then we’ll open up discussion for everyone to share tips on what has worked for them and ask questions. I’m hoping that the artists in attendance will share experiences and ideas, and we’ll all leave knowing more about drawing in viewers and buyers for our shops.

Margaret has really made Phoenix a great resource for artists and illustrators, not only in physical art supplies but also in community and learning experiences. She has always been a great friend to our group the Bucks County Illustrators Society!  There is parking at Phoenix just behind the store, and if you’ve never been there before, it is located next to Quarry Road, which is a tiny street just north of the intersection of Edison-Furlong Road and Rte. 611 (Easton Rd.). Their phone number is 215-345-0980 . And if you need any supplies while you’re there, the register will be open.

 

 

 

Squirrel Scherzo

My newest notecard is a little squirrel, bedecked with an elf hat for the holidays, skipping happily to a scherzo he’s playing on his violin. A scherzo is a piece played ‘jestingly’ or ‘whimsically,’ just what I intended for this little fiddler. I started with a pencil sketch –

squirrel_sketch1

 

then transferred it to illustration board, where I drew it in prisma pencil and painted it in acrylic paint washes.

1etsy_squirrel_violin

These notecards, like the others in my collection, come 8 cards and envelopes to a pack and are blank inside. They are printed in the USA and made with partially recycled paper. Since I had the holidays in mind when I drew this little fellow,  I also printed some cards with a message on the front –

squirrel_violin_words_wp

They are both available on my Etsy site, just click here.